Last updated on December 31st, 2018 at 12:01 pm
So you’ve got a bucket list for travel destinations, and South America is next on your list.
That’s quite an exciting but daunting task! Since South America boasts over 50 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and a number of sites that have earned world wonder status, it can be difficult to choose which places to put on your bucket list. Places like Rio de Janeiro, nicknamed “The World’s Most Beautiful City,” and Machu Picchu, draw millions of visitors each year.
We’ve crafted a South America Bucket List Tour, called the “South America Extensive Tour” that compiles what we think are the absolute must-see sites in South America. It’s a huge continent, and so it’s not easy to come up with the perfect bucket list tour itinerary, but we think this 50-day itinerary does a fabulous job of introducing you to the sights, sounds, and alluring aspects of South America.
If you’re thinking of booking a tour package like the one mentioned below, keep in mind that it’s easy to customize the itinerary. For example, you can mix and match destination, add or remove things, or lengthen or shorten the trip. Our travel consultants are experts at arranging trips that include all the details – from tours, guides, transfers, 4-star hotels, and meals. Note that our tour includes guides, wine tastings, tango lessons, dinner shows, and other amenities – it’s not the kind of tour for a backpacker who wants to stay in hostels and play it by ear! This tour is perfect for those who want to take their time seeing the best of South America, staying in comfortable hotels and having all the details pre-arranged for them.
Here’s the breakdown of our recommended South America Bucket List Tour:
Part 1: The Journey Begins
Start marking off your bucket list by traveling to Lima, Peru, the capital city and a major hub for international flights. Lima is also an up-and-coming spot for foodies, since the fresh seafood and inventive cuisine has attracted world-class chefs, restaurants, and distinctive Peruvian flavors. So come hungry!
Then travel to Cusco, a short flight away from Lima. Spend the night here, or in the Sacred Valley, which were both important sites during the Inca Empire. A dinner and folklore show are included during your Cusco city tour. After exploring the city of Cusco and the Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley, spend a day at the impressive Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.
Once you’ve had your fill seeing the Inca ruins, cloud forests, and colorful markets in the area, board the train for the scenic ride south to Lake Titicaca, on the border of Peru and Bolivia. Lake Titicaca is a huge, beautiful lake where several indigenous villages have lived for centuries. Check out the Sillustani ruins, the floating islands of Uros, the Island of the Sun, and the Island of the Moon. Also check out the ruins of Tiahuanaco, which belonged to the most powerful group of people before the Incas.
Part 2: Go In-Depth
After spending the night on the shores of Lake Titicaca, and visiting the reed floating islands, continue over the border into Bolivia. Nearby is the capital of La Paz, the highest capital in elevation in the world. Walk through the colorful streets, go shopping in the markets, check out the museums and churches, and then head out of town to the Valley of the Moon.
Bolivia’s deserts are as stunning as those in the north of Chile, and you can decide which deserts are more impressive after seeing both. Cross overland from Bolivia to Chile, stopping in the coast oasis town of Arica. En route, check out the Lauca National Park and its snow-peaked volcanoes. Most impressive are the huge Candelaria cacti and the wildlife 140 kinds of birds, llamas, vizcachas and pumas.
Then spend a few days relaxing and exploring the Atacama Desert. Go horseback riding, hiking, trekking, biking – the choice is yours! Enjoy a sunset over the Valley of the Moon, rest in the oasis town of Socaire, soak in the beauty of the colorful lagoons Meûiques and Miscanti. And then check out the Salar de Atacama, the salt flats, which is home to flamingoes and a number of other wildlife. Also see the El Tatio Geyser and the pre-Inca fortress Pucará de Quitor.
Part 3: Travel to the Southern Cone
Head for more temperate climates in Chile’s central coast, where wonderful Chilean wines abound. Go wine tasting in the Maipo River Valley, the Casablanca Valley, and the Colchagua Valley, which are some of the most important wine regions near Santiago. Also, plan on spending a day or two sightseeing in Santiago, the clean and modern capital, including a day at the port city of Valparaíso and the beaches of Viña del Mar.
Next stop is the Chilean Patagonia region, which is part of the “Southern Cone,” the cone-shaped southern half of Chile and Argentina that collectively forms Patagonia. Starting in Puerto Varas, you’ll have the opportunity to explore Chilean Patagonia by catamaran boat and scenic bus rides that take you through the “Lakes Region” into Bariloche, in Argentina. See volcanoes, waterfalls, glacial lakes, and other breathtaking scenery. Then relax in Bariloche, go sightseeing, kayaking, hiking and enjoy the great outdoors.
Part 4: Enjoy Wines, Dance, and Waterfalls
Now that you’re in Argentina and you’re crossing off lots of destinations on your South America Bucket List tour, get ready to be dazzled by the romantic capital of Buenos Aires. Go shopping, take a city tour, jog through the Ecological Reserve and the parks, and see a tango dance show and three-course dinner. You can even take tango dancing lessons if you’d like to learn this distinctive dance – we can arrange lessons with an instructor!
Next stop is Iguazu: head to the northern tip of Argentina, where the Iguassu Waterfalls pours over the border with Brazil. Nearby are mines of precious and semi-precious stones, as well as the ruins of Jesuit Missions from the 17th century. There’s also adventure tours and wildlife watching in the surrounding sub-tropical forests.
Part 5: Big Cities, Farmlands, and Forests
From Iguazu, take a short flight or bus ride to Curitiba, which is nestled in the Atlantic Rainforest. Take a scenic train ride through here, sightseeing in towns and port cities. Stop for a barreado lunch in Morretes, see the port of Antonia, and see the rolling hills of the Atlantic Rainforest, which is partially disappearing.
Then head for one of the largest cities in the world, São Paulo. This metropolis is a tour de force of restaurants, museums, theatres, parks, and cultural activities. Spend a day or two frequenting the parks and museums and take a guided tour to make sure you see all the important highlights. You might want to try Japanese fusion and great sushi, because Sao Paulo is home to the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan.
Part 6: Relax at the Beach and Golden Cities
Now you’ve earned it: you’ve racked up an impressive list of South American destinations on your passport and so now that you’re near the coast of Brazil, relax at the beach! Spend a couple days in Rio de Janeiro, touring the Corcovado and Sugarloaf Mountains, the museums and cafes, and the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana. Eat dinner at a Rodizio, an All-You-Can-Eat Brazilian Barbecue (included).
Then delve into the historic gold mining region of Brazil: Ouro Preto and São João del Rei to the ancient seaport of Paraty. In Paraty, the gold was loaded on ships destined for the Old World. The city has been declared a Brazilian National treasure. Stroll through the streets often covered by water, past houses in elegant decay before boarding a schooner for a half-day cruise of the islands including a lunch. São João del Rei is where you’ll find masterful sculpture by Aleijadinho, who was Brazil’s most famous sculptor. Ouro Preto was the heart of the gold mining region during the colonial and imperial eras.
Part 7: The Amazon Rainforest
Part 8: Salvador da Bahia
Believe it or not, but this South America bucket list tour includes all the things that will make this trip seamless and effortless, so that you can just focus on having fun and relaxing and exploring. You won’t need to worry about getting from place to place, because all transportation, guides, transfers, entrance fees, etc are pre-arranged. Here’s the breakdown:
- 50 days 4-star hotels
- All breakfasts, 17 dinners, 7 lunches
- 1 three-course dinner with wine and tango show
- All city tours and excursions
- First class train from Cuzco to Puno
- All transfers, including to/from airports, train stations, hotels, etc
- Tango lessons
- English-speaking tour guides
Book the South America Bucket List Tour!
Are you interested in booking this tour or something like this? Use our Custom Trip Planner tool to get started! Or simply contact us and one of our travel consultants will help you create a customized itinerary with a free quote. Click here to create a custom tour: